A Number 10 spokeswoman said on Oct. 27: “The prime minister is not expected to attend Cop27 and this is due to other pressing domestic commitments including preparations for the Autumn Budget. The UK will be fully represented by other senior ministers as well as the Cop president Alok Sharma.”
Liz Truss, Sunak’s predecessor, had been expected to attend the U.N. climate conference to be held in Sharm el Sheikh.
Downing Street insisted that Sunak’s absence from the summit does not signal a downgrading of climate change as a priority by his government.
The spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to net zero and to leading international and domestic action to tackle climate change. The UK is forging ahead of many other countries on net zero.”
Sunak has been sending mixed signals about his government’s energy and environmental policies.
The new prime minister has restored the moratorium on fracking only weeks after Liz Truss’s government lifted the ban.
But he has demoted climate minister Graham Stuart and Cop26 President Alok Sharma, who have been stripped of their Cabinet seats.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer joined environmental campaigners in criticising Sunak’s move.
“Britain showing up to work with world leaders is an opportunity to grasp, not an event to shun,” he said.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband criticised the decision as a “massive failure of leadership.”
But Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who served as energy secretary under Truss, said the prime minister is “right not to go to” Cop27.
“The cost of living won’t be solved in Sharm el Sheikh where each hotel room for the conference is £2,000 a night,” he wrote on Twitter.
‘Just a Gathering’
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey also defended Sunak’s decision, arguing he will show “global leadership” rather than attending “just a gathering of people in Egypt.”
She insisted the “big political” iterations of the summits only take place every five years, with next month’s being more “low key.”
Coffey said she and “several senior government ministers” will be attending but was unclear on whether King Charles would too now that there has been a change of leadership.
Buckingham Palace confirmed earlier this month that the king will not be attending the Cop27 summit after the king sought advice from then Prime Minister Truss.
Talking to Sky News on Oct. 28, Coffey said: “I think it’s up to him. I know that he takes an interest in this particular issue, but it’s up to him.”
PA Media contributed to this report.